Early Steps Offering Free Virtual Evaluations and Telehealth Therapy

Early Steps Offering Free Virtual Evaluations and Telehealth Therapy

Parents of Infants and Toddlers Encouraged to Monitor Developmental Milestones and Seek Treatment After Referrals Dropped 65% Due to the Pandemic

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (June 1, 2020) – One of the many vital services Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) offers Broward County families is Early Steps, a free intervention and comprehensive services program for children from birth to 36 months old who are experiencing developmental disabilities or delays.

The first three years of a child’s life are critical for development as brains grow faster during this brief period than in any point in a person’s life.

Most parents seek the services of Early Steps on the advice of a pediatrician, specialist or pre-school teacher. The pandemic has had a negative impact on CDTC’s new referrals, which had a 65 percent decline in April 2020.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention. The sooner it starts, the greater the gains,” said Ana Calderon Randazzo, Ph.D., executive director of the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center. “Our virtual Early Steps program can strengthen a child’s motor or speech skills just as well as it could in person. CDTC’s social workers and trained Early Steps therapists educate caregivers and provide them with easy to follow strategies they can use at home during their daily routines.”

Virtual Early Steps evaluations to determine eligibility are safe and allow families with a child qualifying for early intervention services to work directly with a service coordinator and create a plan with set goals. Prior to the pandemic, motor skills and speech therapy sessions were typically held in a private home. Now, CDTC’s trained service providers are helping families via teletherapy and seeing a great success. The new online format also offers parents greater flexibility with scheduling and allowing them to participate in a greater capacity during therapy sessions. All evaluations and therapies, whether virtual or in person, are provided with no out-of pocket cost to the family.

“The first three years of a child’s life are critical for development. The small window of time doesn’t work well with a ‘wait and see’ approach, nor does it wait for a pandemic to pass,” said Ellie Schrot, director, Early Steps Program at Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center. “Our Early Steps intervention teams design a personalized plan of care and work with families to create achievable goals and top priorities.”

“The first three years of a child’s life are critical for development. The small window of time doesn’t work well with a ‘wait and see’ approach, nor does it wait for a pandemic to pass,” said Ellie Schrot, director, Early Steps Program at Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center. “Our Early Steps intervention teams design a personalized plan of care and work with families to create achievable goals and top priorities.”

With limited social interactions due to the pandemic, parents are encouraged to diligently monitor their children’s developmental milestones. Even when they perceive a delay, some caregivers will postpone acting, thinking the child will “catch up,” but timely and proper instruction can help eliminate, or greatly reduce, the need for specialized services later in childhood and even into adulthood.

Some of the milestones your child should be reaching include:

  • 6 months – Responds to own name. Mimics sounds. Likes to play with others, especially parents.
  • 1 year – Uses simple gestures: shaking head “no” or waving “bye-bye.” Says “mama” and “dada” & phrases like “uh-oh!” Responds to simple spoken requests. 18 MONTHS
  • 1.5 years – Plays simple pretend, like feeding a doll. Points to show others something interesting. Shows a full range of emotions: happy, sad, angry.
  • 2 years – Says sentences with 2–4 words. Gets excited with other children. Points to things or pictures when they are named.
  • 3 years -Shows affection for friends without prompting. Carries on a conversation using 2–3 sentences. Plays make-believe with dolls, animals and people.

If you or anyone close to your child has expressed concerns about not reaching their milestones – talking, walking, playing, interacting with others – your child may need Early Steps. A multi-disciplinary team of professionals will evaluate your child to determine eligibility for services. They assess the following areas:

  • Adaptive (self-help, feeding, dressing)
  • Cognition (learning & problem solving)
  • Communication
  • Gross & Fine Motor Skills (moving, grasping, coordination)
  • Physical (hearing, vision & health)
  • Social/Emotional (playing & interacting with others)

If your child is eligible, Early Steps services may include assistive technology devices; audiology and vision screenings; family education / early intervention sessions; occupational, physical and speech therapy, service coordination; and other individualized services. Early Steps does not require an income criteria or out of pocket expenses to families.

If you have any concerns, talk to your health care provider. To initiate a referral, call Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center’s Early Steps at 954-728-1083 or Child Find at 754-321-7200. Visit childrensdiagnostic.com/early-steps/.